Monday, 15 February 2016

A Spanikopita in the works


Many people know that the editor and I grow a lot of our own food. It has been an interesting week because a number people have discussed with us how to go about growing their own produce.

What has driven this increase in curiosity about growing their own food is that there has been an outbreak of a rare strain of salmonella bacteria linked to pre-packaged lettuce sold in the two major supermarkets: Lettuce recall: Health experts warn of more cases of salmonella poisoning linked to salad mixes

What interests me about this salmonella outbreak is that farm is located not too far from here in an area that has supported major commercial market gardens for a very long time.

With the two other recent food poisoning cases (eg: frozen berries and eggs), I’ve often noticed that if the food product is imported people can easily dismiss their concerns as: Dodgy overseas food handling practices. Likewise, if the food was sourced from a small farm then people can dismiss their concerns as: Dirty hippy food. However, this time the farm involved in the salmonella outbreak was a major commercial facility who were supplying the two big supermarket retailers (which make up over 70% of the market in Australia).

Pre-packaged lettuce is very innocuous and very few people would consider it to be a risky product, but at the same time people have been discussing how to grow their own produce with us. My gut feeling is that what we are seeing with this incident (and the other recent ones like it) is cracks forming in the industrial food production processes.

By growing or foraging some of my own food, I am able to minimise my reliance on the industrial food production system. Speaking of foraging, the wild blackberries in this area have finally started to ripen this week. The local council contractors regularly poison the blackberry canes in this mountain range, but I’m aware of one or two spots that they are unaware of and every year I pick enough fruit for fresh eating and jam making. Of course fruit on wild blackberry canes doesn’t all ripen at once and so you have to pick the fruit over a number of weeks.
Wild blackberries harvested this week
I pick the blackberries every week and store them in a large container which I keep in the freezer until the container is full – or the blackberries are no longer ripening on the cane. Once the container is full, I then produce a huge quantity of homemade blackberry and rhubarb jam. Hopefully enough jam will be produced to last longer than a year.

Did I mention that this week the weather has been warm and dry?
Saturday was warm and dry and reached a maximum temperature in the shade of 35.3’C (95.5’F)
Warm weather is an excellent time to make soap because the chemical reactions occur much faster than in cold weather! Soap is so easy to make and as long as you follow some basic precautions it is almost idiot proof. Soap takes so little of your time to make too, but the entire process does take a few weeks from start to finish. As a teaser, I’ll provide full details on the soap making process in next week’s blog, but really it is very simple and something that everyone can do, anywhere. Below are photos from the soap making activities from the first two days of the process:
The author pours the caustic solution into the olive oil
After a couple of hours in the hot sun, the mix is about 50/50
By the next day, the mix is about 90/10
By the second day a creamy paste has formed and so I poured in some lavender oil to give the soap a nice smell
The heat of Saturday was also a good day to check on the oldest bee hive. The bees generally keep the internal temperature of their hives at about 35’C (95’F) as that is the optimal temperature for raising brood. Observant readers will recognise that many species of animals – including us humans – operate at a more or less similar internal temperature.

The oldest bee hive here comprises three brood boxes. The term brood box is simply the fancy name for a box that the bees are allowed to raise new brood in (i.e. new bees). Three boxes of brood can produce an awful lot of bees! With the heat of that early afternoon, I could smell the honey in the oldest hive from about 10m (33ft) away and at the same time the buzzing from the colony was quite audible as a sort of droning noise.

I thought that it would be a good idea to open up the hive and have a look inside. Opening up a hive on a hot day is a good idea for the bees because they lose less of their precious internal temperature that they’ve worked so hard to produce. Conversely, it goes without saying that opening up a hive on a cold and windy day is a total disaster for the bees.
The oldest bee hive consisting of three brood boxes was opened up on a hot day
Once the hive was opened I could peer inside and see if the bees were enjoying themselves. It was quite a surprise to me to find that they had almost completely filled the third highest brood box (i.e. the box on top). Bees are clever creatures because if they run out of space, they simply select a new likely spot for the colony somewhere out in the forest – with a second living area, and possibly a second bathroom of course! – and then head off with the Queen, part of the colony and much of the honey. That leaves behind just enough bees to continue the original colony. As a beekeeper, you have to anticipate the needs of the bees and provide them with extra space (i.e. another box) so that they don’t leave taking the majority of the colony (and their honey stores) with them. With that concern in mind, I set about adding a fourth box to the existing three box colony.

Observant readers will note that the above photo has a metal mesh on top of the third brood box. The metal mesh is a Queen excluder and that is a fancy name for a mesh which allows the worker bees to move through the mesh, but because the Queen is too large (as she is double the size of most bees) she won’t be able to squeeze through the steel mesh. The reason the Queen excluder steel mesh is in place is because I don’t wish to have any brood developing in the new and fourth box that will be placed on top of that steel mesh. The technical name for the fourth box that the Queen won’t be able to lay eggs in is a “Honey Super”. So it is my hope that the very large colony of bees will set about filling that new Honey Super with… Honey.

My approach with the bees reflects a lot of the systems on the farm here in that I want most systems to be abundant, but not necessarily that productive. The goal of that strategy is a more resilient outcome. For example, there are over three hundred fruit trees in the orchard and not every tree is productive every year, but at least every year I get some produce from some of the trees. With that goal in mind, I want the bees to have as large a colony as they can maintain which means that they will be a stronger hive and thus be more easily able to respond to any shocks without the many dramas that a smaller hive will confront – and there are a lot of dramas that the bees have to deal with these days. If I get a small amount of honey for my efforts then that is all I expect.

Before I could place a fourth box on the hive, I had to quickly (well, about two hours work for 16 frames) make up the frames that the bees live on. Frames are timber squares with a sheet of wax melted onto thin steel wires threaded through the timber frame and the frames are then placed into the bee box. I use a car battery charger to make the wires hot enough so that they melt into the wax sheets. A person could just as easily use a battery in place of the charger.
Using a car battery charger to heat the steel wires on a bee frame so that they melt into the wax sheet
I then got into my bee suit, removed the red roof of the hive and placed the new box (which holds 8 frames) onto the existing three boxes. All the while the bees are buzzing around and getting slowly more and more annoyed by my actions. Put it this way, bees don’t like being disturbed!
The author in his bee suit places the new honey super onto the existing three box hive
The job was almost complete and the editor moved in a bit closer to take a great close up photo of the action.
The fourth box and roof is in place and a drill is used to screw the metal clips holding the whole hive together
Now at this point in the story, I should point out that observant readers will note that in the photo above there are at least five bees attacking me from the rear. One of the bees even had the audacity to try and sting me on the bum! Fortunately, for me I was wearing a bee suit, so they could do their worst and I could shrug them off. On the other hand, it was a hot day and putting on a heavy bee suit is a pain. The editor in her wisdom chose not to wear a bee suit, and a bee consequently stung her on the face, whilst three other bees became caught in her hair. There was a bit of a commotion…

Now the editor wishes to remain anonymous so I can’t show you, the readers, how much she has suffered over the past few days, purely for your reading and viewing enjoyment. However, so you get a feel for her overall look, here is a photo which shows the results of a bee sting that I received on the side of my head two years ago. As an interesting side note, I also opened the garden that afternoon to a local gardening group and they were very nice about the fact that half of my head looked a puffer fish!
The author impersonating a puffer fish which was the result of a bee sting to the side of the face
The reaction to the venom is what is known as a localised reaction and it is pretty typical of bee stings. As an interesting observation, we have noted that the regular consumption of honey (and anti-histamines) afterwards helps to reduce the inflammation. This effect was discovered purely by accident when the editor consumed a glass of mead which had a noticeable anti-inflammatory effect. We weren’t going to produce further mead as it is an expensive wine, but may brew up another batch or two over the next few weeks just to have on hand for such emergencies!

As the summer continues and there is less green pick for the wildlife, the wallabies have conducted daring night time raids on the strawberry enclosure.
The wallabies have conducted daring night time raids on the strawberry enclosure
Maintenance of systems is always happening here and regular readers will recall that the firewood shed is continuing to fill up. Well, the wood heater is a system that has to also be maintained and this week I climbed up onto the roof to clean the flue (which is the fancy name for the steel chimney). It had been about five years since the flue was last cleaned...
The author uses a long brush to clean all of the gunk out of the wood heater flue
The cleaning brush comprises thick plastic bristles on a very long wire which you push up and down the flue so that the gunk in the flue falls into the wood heater below where it can be disposed of.
The cleaning brush is inserted into the chimney in order to clean the gunk in the flue. Note the bend in the wire
The wire that the brush is attached to is quite long and has a bend in the middle of it for ease of storage
At the top of the flue is a cover which is usually described (for those that are technically inclined) as a cowl. The cowl had rusted through so I now have a stainless steel unit on order. The cowl stops rain getting into the flue and rusting out the heater. In the photo below of the cowl you can see just how much gunk had built up over five years of use.
The cowl had rusted through and you can also see just how much gunk had accumulated in just five years
And then there was the mess which I’d brushed from the flue and was now collected in the wood heater for disposal in the garden.
This accumulated gunk was brushed out of the flue
The temperature outside now at about 6.00pm is 25.5'C degrees Celsius (77.9'F). So far this year there has been 49.4mm (1.9 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total 49.2mm (1.9 inches).

92 comments:

Damo said...

How are the bees in your other hive going?

A couple of years ago I made some blackberry mead and it is very smooth now (but wasn't so good 6 months ago). Very easy to make and quite nice to sip in front of a fire.

I am in Adelaide this week but I am told that Zeehan is getting some wild weather with rain mixed in - hopefully that will help with the fires. On the drive to Hobart airport it was very smoky the entire way, combined with the dry grass it all felt a bit hellish.

margfh said...

Hi Chris,

I pick quite a few wild blackberries as well. The grow along the edges of the woods in back of us and in our tree line separating fields. Good source of some free food. We don't make jams though as we try to keep our sugar consumption down. Also as I'm gluten intolerant I don't eat much bread on which, of course, jam is meant to be spread.

My aunt, sister and I made soap once and you are right it is quite easy. We waited until my husband was out of town as he's very possessive about his kitchen appliances and would have not been please to see the process.

All your bee info is very familiar. Even though I'm not the beekeeper I've learned the terms and process quite well. I remember when my husband got his first bee packages. I stood about 20 ft away reading him the steps from the book, "Beekeeping for Dummies".

I had a bee caught in my hair once so I can sympathize with the editor - not a pleasant experience. Very interesting about drinking mead and its anti inflammatory effect. I'll have to pass that on to my husband now that we have some mead.

My husband cleans out our chimney once year to be on the safe side. How many months do you generally burn?

Had about 3 inches of snow last yesterday - very light and fluffy and sparkly in the light. Haven't had much snow this winter and weather is forecast to get much warmer later this week.

Margaret

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Margaret - Finished the "Downton Abbey", last season, last night. Sigh. A very satisfying series. I won't say too much about it, as, here in the States, the broadcast is only about half way through the last season. I've caught bits and pieces of "Upstairs, Downstairs", over the years. I should bite the bullet and get it a season at a time, from the library. "Duchess of Duke Street" is also a zinger. I re-watch it, every five years or so. Same time period. Based on a real woman. She started as a kitchen maid, clawed her way into being a chef. Later opened a "discreet" hotel and catering service.

Aren't the "For Dummies" books, great? I've got several, covering a lot of different topics ... everything from Mindfullness and Meditation to Nutrition. Don't know what I'd do without the general one on Chickens, and the other one on Chicken Health. It was always a little dicey, recommending the series to someone at the library. I'd kind of slide into it sideways. "There's this series ... I have several of the books, myself ... it's called the "For Dummies" series." And, of course there's the copy cat "Complet Idiot's Guide to ..." series. Also, good. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Might be the mob I run with, but besides "dodgy overseas food" and "dirty hippies", "major commercial facilities" are also highly suspect. And, we seem to have a real problem with restaurant chains, here.

The blackberries in your sink, look like the blackberries in my sink, last summer. :-). I've never noticed our county spraying, along the roads ... or, noticed a big die back. But, I've got plenty of places to pick, well away from the roads. It's always such a relief to get the last gallon in the freezer. 8 or 10 depending on what I have left over from the previous year. I have to keep a toothpick handy, if I eat any. The seeds! Worst in nuked oatmeal, not so bad in anything baked.

Will be interesting to see how you make your soap. Make your own lye, or pour it out of the can? :-)

That was really interesting about the metal mesh queen excluder. A new one on me. I guess there are places even a queen cannot go! :-). That was interesting about the mead and antihistamines. Of course, the meads out, for me, but I think I'll pick up some antihistamines for the medicine cabinet, before bee and wasp season. My luck can't last, forever. I suppose a nice large tumbler of scotch or brandy would help the pain. Probably wouldn't do too much for the swelling. :-)

Flue cleaning was always a pain in the bum. And, bees had nothing to do with it. But, I think I told you, I discovered if I threw a handful of rock salt, on a good hot fire, it glazed the inside of the chimney. Worked on brick, but might not work on a metal pipe. Picked up an bit of tat, the other day. A little boy chimney sweep. Carrying his ladder and in his traditional stove pipe hat. German porcelain. Not too old. I am turning into such an old lady, with my little china figurines. :-)

A bit of useless historic nonsense I ran across, the other day. After the emperor Claudius "conquered" Britain, he named his son Britannica. His only heir. Poor boy, died young. Historical sources differ. Maybe Nero did him in. Or, Nero's mother Agrippina. Or, he may have just died of an epileptic seizure. We'll never know. Probably won't keep me up, at night :-).

Chicken production was down, a bit, last week. Slid from 30 to 25. Off to a good start, this week. 6 yesterday ... but only 2, today. Rainy and overcast. But, not as rainy as the last three days. A quiet holiday, today. Presidents Day. Rolled Washington and Lincoln's birthday in, together. Traditionally, on Washington's birthday, you're supposed to eat cherry pie (long story). I don't know what you're supposed to do for Lincoln's birthday. Go to the theatre? :-). Which reminds me of a VERY old (and lame) joke. "Well, other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

As to the bee sting, you are no doubt correct. The Queens are sourced from Queensland so they may have Asian and/or African honey bee genetics in them, so who knows? Certainly when I was younger bee stings were as you described them, but now...

Ha! You failed to send the rain down here, but I do seem to have received the wind today though! :-)! Has your winter become any drier?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

Oh yeah, they're good aren't they? Hey, you kind of threw me for a bit because my pulpy copy of The Faceless Man is titled The Anome. You must have a very early copy of that book?

I can't recall whether I'd asked you before whether you've read the Demon Princes series? That's one of my favourites and I dust it off every year or two and delve into the land of the Gaean Reach for a while. Oh it's good! The Planet of Adventure series is very enjoyable too and I enjoy how the protagonists escape from all sorts of traps and mischief by their sheer wit. Good fun stuff.

How I wish that I'd somehow nabbed a copy of the Vance Integral Edition, but the project was long finished by the time I heard of it.

Yeah, the names in Vance's stories are really secondary to the exotic locations and cast of tricksters.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

Thank you. The other thing about wind turbines, and I forgot to mention this, is that they require the wind to flow from one direction, so if it swirls around a lot then the turbine slows as its rudder forces a change of direction and the voltage drops to unusable levels. Pumping water is fine for wind power though.

What a story. You know after big bushfires here, the authorities close down an area - the whole mountain can become a crime scene, and if you are in the area, you can stay inside, however if you leave, there is no going back until the area is cleared. Anyway, after Black Saturday, many people simply ran out of fuel for their generators... Just sayin. My little generator which is for emergency use only uses about 1 litre of fuel per hour (or about 1 gallon per 3.5 hours).

Far out that is cold. It is a chilly night here tonight at 11'C (51'F) outside, mind you it is toasty warm inside. Brrr! I feel a bit guilty because it was a bit too cold to let the chickens out into the orchard tonight - they're going to be angry tomorrow...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

That is very cute. Peefus was clearly winning, no doubts about that! :-)! Peefus was marking and savouring every moment of his existence, whilst also probably fretting about finding the next toasty spot - why waste energy (i.e. breakfast) on keeping warm when the fireplace does just as well?

Thank you, the editor is almost back to normal this evening and a nice glass of mead seems to be doing the trick. ;-)! Bee stings are not fun here.

Well, maybe that is more about control so that the cell phone can take centre stage? Who knows? I generally shop as rarely as possible but also at very unfashionable hours so that I don't have to experience that.

Ha! Sorry, I should laugh but that is funny. Although I have a glass range hood over the stove and to be honest, I've crashed into it with my forehead a few times. Ouch!

Oh no! I'm starting to get really troubled about the elderberries and if I get a bit of time this evening, I'm going to open the encyclopedia of herbs (it is an awesome book).

Yeah, who need scary films. I refuse to watch a Quentin Tarantino film as they give me total nightmares. Who needs that?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Chocolate is good. Yum Yum! Well, I hear you man. I do exactly the same thing when well meaning people offer to the editor and I to join their happy family on Christmas day. Honestly, that would be the worst experience ever. I'd much rather throw water balloons at friends at an orphans Christmas, that to be very honest, deserve everything they get. Mind you, they were much better shots than I... Anyway, there was no way the editor was allowed off the property during the bee sting face swell episode as people really get the wrong impression and in a small mountain range tongues do wag. So, it was a quiet Valentines day and the editor scored a lovely gift of a medlar fruit tree. I really hate the waste of cut flowers, and would rather that she enjoy flowers for many years. Maybe that is a bit quirky who knows?

Oh no! You've just put the kiss of death on yourself - quickly race out and touch some wood otherwise next spring or summer you may be stung. Opening a bee hive really annoys them. I've rarely watched South Park, but I'm pretty sure what they'd quote Steve Irwin as saying. Hehe!

Man, I feel for you and have shared that experience for sure. The editor always says that I can foretell how psychopathic behaviour in individuals will express itself and it is probably due to my upbringing and being exposed to those nutters. Seriously, it makes me avoid stories and people with those tendencies like the plague and Breaking Bad was full of it. I will say no more on the subject as I can unfortunately see into their hearts and guess at their motivations and they disgust me. Zombies on the other hand are the undead and so they care not a whit for the motivations that drive some individuals! ;-)!

That is quite funny. What a story and yes, the young often lack social filters and thus can tell it like it is! Well Buckingham Palace draws 500,000 people a year as visitors. With all of those rooms it would be very expensive to maintain. It is a good strategy to cover some of the cost of maintenance? You'd hope that somewhere in there was a nice Devonshire tea with proper freshly made scones and jam - none of that frozen scone business. What is with that? Blind Freddy could tell the difference between a fresh scone and a frozen and reheated scone... Maybe Chef John could share an opinion in this most important matter?

Very nice. It does make you wonder doesn't it? Years ago I was a member of the National Trust which preserves old buildings and opens them to the public. It is fun sticking your nose into all of the nooks and crannies of an old house - the secrets are all there for those with a discerning eye! Mind you, there was no plastic runner which seems a bit tawdry, and they were a canny organisation as they only took on houses which came with a trust endowment. I've noticed that an old mansion near here which was previously abandoned seems to have new owners...

Well done you. I reckon if the engraving speaks to you, it is more valuable than the mere valuation. What do they know anyway?

Oh, beware the floods (and more realistically the fords) and whilst you are at it, I would appreciate a little bit of rain sent down this way? Off the mountain things have really dried up over the past week or so. There are patches of green in the orchard though.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi hippy,

Lovely to hear from you and yes, there are two great nurseries there in Blackwood. It surprises me that one can get a good coffee in Trentham these days! :-)!

Nice to read that you received some rain, but yes, the temperatures are now much cooler and the nights are almost chilly. In another few weeks, it will be planting time to get trees in the ground whilst the soil is still warm.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

Thanks for asking. The bees in the experimental hive suffered a serious set back when they were moved here from the supplier and then they were immediately attacked by the ants. I've been checking on them everyday and they are still going but they look to me as if they are raising brood and foraging. It is very hard to obtain any honey from a first year hive down under.

Oh, you are a total bad influence. ;-)! What a great idea, I never would have thought of that. And yes, country wines become far more smooth with age. Needless to say, I'm trying to age all of the supplies to at least 12 months, but it is a big production. How they used to do that in the old days is well beyond me.

Yeah, Zeehan copped it big time from that low and it now looks as though it is heading towards New Zealand (a present from the land of Oz?). I do hope that it put the fires out on the west coast. You are getting my normal summer this year and I'm suffering from southern NSW summer. It is a very weird experience.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

Yes, no other berry is as productive as the humble blackberry. Yum! I won't tell you that I really enjoy the blackberry jam on freshly baked bread - seriously it is good. ;-)! Hehe! Sorry, that is a bit naughty of me. They make great fresh eating berries too as they have such a rich taste. They're certainly my favourite berries.

You are certainly a wise woman to understand that! It is so easy, I am seriously unsure why it gets such a bad rap from people?

20ft away from a hive is very brave. I do really wish the bees well, they have such a hard time of it in our society. As a more experienced beekeeper than I, I'd be very interested to hear his opinion or any observations that he has of that second year hive? No stress though.

Well, it does make one wonder doesn't it as anti-inflammatory effects are conducive with a long and pain free existence. I may do some experiments on that particular subject over the next few months. Unfortunately, quality honey sets me back about $10/kg (2.2 pounds to the kg) and the price only seems to go in one direction.

We probably burn from late April until early October and mostly at night. I haven't cleaned the flue for five years...

It is strangely warm here too and I worry about the winter rains this year.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Oh, that's not good to hear as you are living in our future. That's a real worry. I'm reminded of Bruce Willis in the film "Food Inc." who was talking to the fast food chain guy and emphasing the point: "All you have to do is cook the f...... meat". Sometimes the editor and I make jokes about that. Mind you, the dogs bury their bones for a few days just to give it a patina of aged beef? There is no accounting for taste really.

You are very lucky. I'm hoping that budget cutbacks eventually kill off the spraying program... The local council keeps putting up land taxes (council rates) by 5% and 6% per year and it is just not on. I have fantasies of running for local election on a platform of spilling the lot of them and making them re-apply for their jobs at a lower pay rate. Just sayin... Ooo where did that come from? :-)! Oh sorry, where were we. That's right, blackberries. Your fertile soils probably means that you get larger berries with bigger seeds. The infertile soils here produce smaller berries with smaller seeds. As an interesting side note, a local farmer told me that the blackberries were larger when he was younger, and I have no reason to doubt him because the imported berries from NZ and China are huge compared to ours.

Ha! Sorry, but secret soap business will be revealed next week. Lye is pretty easy to make.

Yes, the Queen must stay in her place in one of the three brood boxes. Honestly, the colony is as feral as already without extra brood. The bees will know what to do with the extra real estate and now is the time they should be storing their honey. That is a bummer about the mead, but I totally understand. Perhaps a spoon or two of quality honey and note whether there is a difference. It is noticeable to me. Yeah, brandy and scotch are nice, but they're whole different beasts! Hehe! You are naughty. :-)!

The salt would probably speed up the decomposition of the steel and honestly, the steel worms are eating that fire box as quickly as I can repair it. One day, if I ever have money to burn... That day will probably not come unless of course money becomes a useful fuel source as it has at some points in the past. Unfortunately they print notes on plastic down here... No, not at all. Collecting for the sheer joy of collecting is an excellent hobby. And doesn't each item have a wonderful history?

Oh. Nero gets a bad rap doesn't he? I'll bet he was a bit clueless - or a scapegoat for later generations maybe? The whole Nero fiddled while Rome burned sounds an awful lot to me like the sort of snide remarks passed around about Mary Antoinette about the whole let them eat cake business. It doesn't ring true to me that sort of comment as it sounds like something spoken to stir the rabble into action. Please sleep well, the dust has surely settled on either incident.

Your chickens need a little superchicken vest to wear during the cold weather? Today. 2 eggs. They're busy regrowing their feathers from the summer molt. Wow, that is a tough call to purchase cherries in your part of the world at this time of the year. I'm assuming that cherry pie - which has strange connotations linked to it these days - would have been made from preserved cherries? I do like your Lincoln joke too. Yes, break a leg has a whole new meaning in that context. Oh, that joke is shocking, but I sort of like it too! Hehe! No one assassinate politicians down here, don't worry about them, if you don't like what they're saying, they won't be around for long anyway - honestly it is like musical chairs down here. Fortunately they've announced today that they're not going to put up the sales tax on everything from 10% to 15% - that would have financially destroyed people, whatever where they thinking to suggest it in the first place?

Cheers

Chris

Damo said...

Hi Chris,

My copy of The Faceless Man is an electronic scan, unfortunately it had the occasional typo due to OCR issues, but at least I got to read them! I have read the demon prince series and Planet of Adventure. Both are great, but my favourites are still Lyonesse and The Dying Earth (Cugel!!). Have you read "The Dark Ocean"?

Like yourself, I found out about the Integral edition way too late..

Another blackberry suggestion, chutney! I made some the other day, goes very well with cheese. Also, add a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds to help thicken it up.

Damo

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris and others

It gets harder to check on who said what and I feel that my thoughts can only go generally in precis form.

Firstly that swollen face looked really nasty and of course it occurred at the worst time 'sod's law'. The one time I had a swollen face was from a horse fly bite. You call them March flies.
I think that it was Pam who mentioned onion and plantain for stings, absolutely fascinating. I have a question here. Bee and wasp stings are different, I understand that one is acidic and the other alkaline (bees alkaline I think) so surely they require totally different treatment?

Elderberries: It was news to me that they are dubious eating. My research suggests that the entire plant is not okay but the berries are fine. I used to make an elderberry fool years ago, the elderberries were cooked. The annoying thing is the way they stained bowls permanently. My husband used to make an elderberry cough syrup but I don't know the details.

Blackberries: Most years I pick and freeze them in vast quantities, also eat them daily. Ha! toothpicks needed, oh yes. I don't make jam anymore as I just don't eat it. I prefer meat and cheese on bread. I do make blackberry icecream and regard it as the best of all icecreams. In a good year I can pick them for months. They don't breed true so I am surrounded by different wild varieties. I have noticed that if one picks year after year in one spot, they become smaller. If I find a new source they start larger again.

Inge

orchidwallis said...

cont.

A query about apples. Everyone I know who has apples, even if there are various varieties, alternates a year of glut and a year of famine. Why can't one have half the apples producing one year and the other half the next? Do they just line up with each other?

Is the reference to pre-packaged veg. referring to the ready washed leaves or just to a bit of plastic wrapped around e.g. a cauliflower. I do avoid the ready washed stuff as it isn't just water that they wash it in.

Nasty cockerels: Son was given 2 large ones Jersey Giant hybrids. He says that they weren't just nasty, they were psychotic and that their sole aim was to kill him. He had to carry a shovel if he went anywhere near them.

Bank note: We are going to make the change to plastic notes. Makes it very difficult shortly for people who keep vast amounts of cash. If they take too much into a bank, there are queries.

I loved 'Upstairs downstairs' but only the first series of 'Downton Abbey' If a series does well I reckon that they over push it. The same could be said for 'Call the midwife'. For those who live in the sun and want to know what real cold is like, I would suggest 'Ice Road Truckers'. That has been going for a few years; the current series has just finished.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - You're wise to keep the Editor on the mountain, til the selling goes down. My mum once took a tumble in the kitchen, and caught the edge of a counter on her way down. My dad took her to the emergency room and was quit embarrassed by some of the side looks he got. He said he was tempted to yell "Watch what you say or I'll give you another one!" Reason prevailed. I have a metal hood over my stove, and every once in awhile, bang into the corner of it. Ouch!

I don't think it's quirky at all, to give a living plant. The gift that keeps on giving. My dad gave my mom a Japanese maple. It was the only yard plant relocated to the new place, when they moved.

Yeah, I'm pretty good at spotting psychopaths, too. Occasionally, my landlord Don will ask me what I think of this or that person .. my gut feeling. I think he's double checking whatever "vibes" he gets off the person. Of course, the psychopath you don't spot will be the one who bites you in the ... ear. :-).

What was really funny if that in the Downton Abbey tour, when the clueless family was asked about some bit of historical information, they (several times) said, of a character you never saw, "Well, our librarian would know. But he's on holiday." So apparently, also on staff at the Abbey was their very own librarian. Not unusual for the "great houses." After all, there was a lot of references to "the large library" and "the small library." :-).

Oh, I think fresh, or homemade is always better than frozen. If for no other reason than you know exactly what is in it. Although, as I've mentioned before, homemade can be a bit ... bland, a bit of a let down, at first. Taste has to be retrained, a bit. Taste begins to ... expect those artificial flavors and preservatives. Next time I make that pound cake, I'm going to double the orange peel and ginger. Just to give it more zip.

My blackberries were a bit on the small side, last year. I think because of the drought. As far as planting times go, besides worrying about late frosts, here, you have to keep in mind the rain. Put your potatoes or peas in too early, and they might "rot in the ground." You hear that, a lot.

Prof. Mary Beard talks a lot about how accurate are historical documents from the Romans. There are really just a handful of historians whose writings have made it to now. The Roman historian was in a patronage position. Either had patron, or, was trying to attract one. Had to really test the wind to see which previous regimes were out of favor (for whatever reason) to curry favor with the current regime.

The cherry story was a complete fabrication (probably). Little George Washington cut down the cherry tree with his little axe and fessed up to it, to his father, as "he could not tell a lie." Grant Wood did a painting of the incident. Just about the time that story started circulating in the mid 1800s, canning and preserving were becoming wide spread. I remember my grandmother "put up" cherries. We have some varieties of cherries that grow on this side of the mountains (had one in the backyard of one of our houses when I was young) but the commercial crops are grown over on "the dry side" of the mountains. None in my neighborhood, except for some ornamentals that are small and, fairly tasteless. The birds like them.

No, you don't assassinate your politicians, down under. You just throw them to the sharks :-). Another bad joke. Lew



Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris:

We had a snow/ice storm. Power is out. Ha ha! Generator is on. Ha ha! It is much warmer today, anyway. Starting lots more seeds inside today ( I am on a roll!).

Do you strain out the blackberry seeds?

Bees are so clever, and tricky. You really have to stay on top of them, don't you? What a terrible, and terribly funny, sting story. Sorry. If you looked like a pirate with your sting, I don't even want to think what the Editor must look like. Do you think that an external application of honey on the sting would do anything? I rather hope I get a chance to try it this summer.

This summer, or early fall, it will be time for us to clean out the chimney and stovepipe. Yuk.

I look forward to hearing more about your soapmaking. We made lye once from ashes, but never got around to making any soap.

Pam

margfh said...

@Lew,
Thanks for the recommendation of "Duchess of Duke Street". I'll have to put it on the list of "to watch" shows which is a pretty short list.

My husband always recommends the "Beekeeping for Dummies" to new beekeepers.

margfh said...

Hi Chris,

My husband gets most of his honey now from first year hives as so many don't even make it through the first winter. This is true for beekeepers much more experienced than him as well. It does seem that they have a better chance if you leave most of the honey for them though this is mostly anecdotal. He just bought 5 packages for this spring at a cost of $575.

We burn from November through early April here and like you mostly in the evenings.

The chickens had been laying six eggs daily on average. Of course I've found what seems to be a regular customer who bakes a lot and would like several dozen a week and they decide to drop to three or four a day.

Margaret

Fay said...

Hi Chris,
In this part of Queensland blackberries are a noxious weed and not only does the council spray the roadside clumps but demands that landowners also destroy any clumps on their farms. I grow Boysenberries as an alternative. Next month four weeks of intensive work begins on the Granite Belt with hundreds of backpackers on strawberry farms harvesting runners and rolling them into bundles for export to other districts like Victoria. They are disease free. The apple harvest has begun, but the big news this year has been the Queen Garnet plum. I lost my Wilson and Santa Rosa plums this year due to a late frost. I usually don’t buy late season plums. For me it is a seasonal thing – December is stone-fruit and Boysenberry season for me. I now have raspberries and grapes. Soon I’ll have figs. Fay

Fay said...

Hi Chris,
More about the Queen Garnet plum.
Although the Queen Garnets are being marketed for eating, it appears their value lies in their anthocyanin content. It is being hailed as a health food to prevent dementia and obesity.
One farmer bought the commercial rights for this plum from the Qld research station, here on the Granite Belt, and now has 75,000 trees. With 5 other shareholders he formed a company to buy all the commercial rights to this plum variety and then established the Nutrafruit factory producing nectar and probiotics.
Nutrafruit has sent budwood to several countries overseas. Fay

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

No stress, my mind wanders too and threads are lost and then found again. Not to stress, it's all good.

Well, there we share the opposite as the march flies here leave an infected bite similar to a mosquito. They're pretty impressive looking beasties under an electron microscope.

Ok, you've got me wondering too, because I've consumed them with no ill effect. Dunno - some research is required.

Ah, that is interesting. The Good Baron Von Mueller brought them to Australia in the late 19th century and well, they just went feral... No, down here the size of the fruit varies with the rainfall and heat. Your rainfall is more reliable so the berries would swell more (I believe), but the heat would impact the production of sugar so the taste may possibly vary from year to year. The seeds are not a problem here as the berries themselves are usually very small. I'd be interested to hear your take on that, and yeah, they do readily hybridise too. My cultivated ones are of the thornless variety (Waldo and Chester).

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

What an excellent question and yes, I'm wondering about that too. I grow 26 varieties of apple so when they're a bit bigger, I was actually hoping to observe that too and find out what happens and why. Apples require one season for wood and the following for fruit.

Oh yeah. Nasty stuff. Someone once fed me that packaged rocket and I found the leaves to be distressingly bland - no taste whatsoever. It was very weird.

Your son was very wise to carry that shovel. The nasty cockerel (former, mind you) used to also give me stink eye and then go off and be very aggressive with some of the smaller birds in the flock. I woke up one morning and bopped him on the head, and the chicken collective was suddenly a much calmer place. It was Rumpole the now dead boss chicken who took control that day.

Yeah, there are limits down here too. I believe transactions in excess of $10,000 are reported and they know everything about you from an extensive bank database. I read the other day that one of the Federal ministers wants to move to a cashless economy and they will get rid of the 5 cent piece shortly.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, it is a very small mountain range and people have such long memories. I feel for both your mother and father in that incident as people often jump to the wrong conclusion. It was wise that he kept his mouth closed as it could only serve to escalate the situation.

Thank you, the Japanese maples are a beautiful plant so it is well worth the while to move them with you. They are very drought and heat hardy too and will also self seed here. I've been growing some as a small over story in one of the garden beds and they give summer shade. Plus their colour is superb and I have a few red ones as well as the more usual green.

Well, there is always the black swan isn't there? Your landlord is very wise to go with his gut feeling and vibe and then seek confirmation from others. Your concept a few weeks back about "not knowing your people" really struck a chord with me and you really have to build long term relationships in rural areas. Very wise. Incidentally that is where the: If it seems odd, it is probably because it is odd, came from. I'd be interested to hear how you honed your skills, but working with the public at the coal face - helps a lot? I didn't have the luxury of misinterpreting warning signs as a kid as the consequences could be swiftly felt, but fortunately nobody bothered correcting my world view with false stories so I never really had any misunderstandings or cognitive dissonance about those sorts - it does sometimes make for a dark world view though as I fail to be able to hide behind fluffy narratives that people seem to take so much comfort in. Still, I'm unsure that I'd change anything and happy families do tend to look very much alike. I don't enjoy being a foil to them though for them to prove just how happy they are because I see the cracks - I can't avoid seeing them... Oh well, it's all good.

Ha! The Downton Abbey denizens have outsourced their brains to the librarian!!! Hehe! That is a funny, funny story.

That sort of reminds me of your blueberry crumble that you took to the Christmas do for the group. You know exactly what is in it - and don't have to wonder. Sometimes, some things just look better than they taste and you have to ask what were they thinking when they made that? Someone once served me up a lemon tart (as a dessert) but for some strange reason they put rosemary in it and well, it sort of clashed a bit... Hey, I reckon you can retrain your palate within 3 weeks.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

Your rain is often variable over the summer isn't it? I was a bit worried for you last year as it was such a tough summer. And yeah, lack of rainfall really makes for small blackberries (as well as most other fruits) and heat just makes them sweeter and richer tasting - the only upside from a hot year. Potatoes are very reliable here because of the well drained soil, they do well every year. But up your way with the heavy rainfall...

Patron's are clearly fickle beasts. The editor tipped me off to an artist that received a commission from one of the local councils on the northern side of the city and apparently, it was far enough out from the CBD that they were a bit disparaging of the area - despite taking the cash. There has been a song by a local artist that has gained international attention and it is about the ongoing housing price crisis which particularly impacts the very young. The words are worth reading:
COURTNEY BARNETT LYRICS "Depreston"
. It is very clever. Preston is a middle suburb of Melbourne with a lot of light industry and post war housing stock. It makes me feel a bit sad as the young are paying the price and no one seems to want to talk about that.

What is with that meme. I heard that story about never telling lies and it just sounded very unbelievable. Of course, the cherries would not do well on your side of the mountain as they need the heat and dry weather during the swelling season.

I ended up working very late tonight.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Brrr!!! That is so cold - I hope the generator started OK? Well, now is the time of year. I leave them in the sun and near the heater and they never fail. What are you growing?

Sorry, I just don't understand about the seeds - they're very small here. The seeds end up in the jam.

They really are clever and I like trying to tell their story as I see it. They're doing it very hard too across the planet. Thank you too and the editor is now mending nicely and almost back to normal. I was thinking that too, but it had been a day or so before we discovered the effect. Now if you'd like to volunteer... ;-)! I will try that next time.

Isn't it a dirty, dirty job. I poured the contents across an area that I'm preparing in the orchard and it will be interesting to see what happens to the organic matter already in that spot. Who knows? Do you spread your ash around the garden?

Soap making is so easy and the quality of the soap is very good - olive oil soap is superb. Out of curiosity, what did you use the lye for?

It looks like winter here today with a thick black cloud over the mountain range - no rain though. They reckon that it will heat up again on the weekend - and I can hear Poopy snoring loudly on the bean bag - he's been happily chewing on a chunk dead neighbours goat all day. It is doing his teeth wonders.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

Fortunately your soils are more fertile than here so the bees probably take far more nutrition and put on more honey in their first year. I couldn't do that at all. The new hive which I put in the experimental hive late last year is just sort of quietly doing its thing, I do hope they're storing some honey for the winter?

That is pretty cheap, although if you have to replace them every year it would add up. How is his course going in relation to raising Queens? A local guy could do that but his bees were really aggressive. I pay about $160 for a single bee colony of about three active frames and am hoping to eventually build three hardy colonies so that they can populate the surrounding forest and then do their own thing whilst I collect a small amount of honey. It is hard to keep throwing money at them...

Nice to hear. Winter days can get down to 0'C (32'F) outside, but it rarely stays that cold for too many days in a row before something else happens. I honestly have no idea how much firewood gets burnt. I've done an audit last week on water use and that is very interesting.

Oh that's a shame. I usually give extra eggs away to my accounting customers and they always appreciate them - I'll wager that we are the only ones to do that! Well, spring will be here before you know it. I may add some extra chickens this weekend! I'll try and take some photos of the poultry association stall.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Fay,

People can get a bit hung up on the concept of weeds - and I really love the berries. Plus I've noticed that very rich soil builds up underneath a blackberry plant so my gut feeling says that they are a pioneering plant and will eventually die off in an area as the forest takes it back. Dunno.

Oh yeah boysenberries are excellent. I grow thornless blackberries of the Chester (late) and Waldo (early) variety. Ha! So that is where the original runners came from? I'm collecting my own runners this year for the new strawberry project. Have you ever taken cuttings of currants, gooseberries or jostaberries as I would love to propagate a whole lot of them this year?

Sorry to hear about the late frost - it is always a risk. Did you manage to salvage any of the fruit? Yes, I've noticed the figs swelling too, but wonder whether they'll get enough heat before winter to ripen. Someone once told me that the fruit can over winter on the tree? Is that your experience? I've also found that fig trees are not especially drought hardy when young and they require almost as much water as the thirstiest nut trees...

Well, who would have guessed that consuming fruit and vegetables has beneficial impacts on ones health? :-)! I can't even imagine trying to manage 75,000 fruit trees...

Cheers

Chris

Fay said...

Hi Chris,
The blackberries in this district are not like the European blackberry - much thornier and extremely vigorous, said to be a cross with American blackberries. They thrive in this decomposed granite soil as seed easily germinates. Seed is spread by birds. Over the years many farmers have bulldozed old orchards into heaps and with boulders and these mounds become thick with blackberries. Rabbits build warrens under the blackberries and become another pest, not to mention the foxes that hunt the rabbits - three introduced pests.
No, I got no fruit from my mulberry and plum trees this season. We have only had light rain during the summer months and are now experiencing a heatwave. I have 6 fig trees - 4 varieties. They are thirsty trees and have vigorous root systems. I haven't any experience with the cuttings you mention.
Fay

Fay said...

Chris, I forgot to say I have no experience of figs over wintering because the first frost of the season will cause all the leaves and any remaining figs to drop.
Fay

margfh said...

Hi Chris,

Most beekeepers feed sugar water to the bees in the spring particularly to the new hives as it's really iffy whether or not there will be food available at that time. It's also fed in the fall if the beekeeper takes quite a bit of honey for their use or sale. This, of course, is not best for the bees.

The cost for packages goes up each year. As so many hives are lost over the winter the sale of honey is necessary to cover the costs or at least that's how it's rationalized. It's still my belief that there would be a better chance of the hives overwintering if all or most of the honey is left for the bees.

There don't seem to be any "wild" honey bees around anymore. We found a hive in a tree at the oak savannah we were restoring a couple of years ago. It appeared to be quite healthy but did not make it through the winter.

My husband hasn't started his queen class yet. I think it's coming up soon.

Margaret

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

Oh - so an apple might be considered a biennial?

My childhood was completely, 100% sheltered. I had very little idea what the real world was like until I went to university. It was quite an eye-opener!

I have heard - I think that it's mostly true - that you can train yourself to a new habit (or get rid of an old one) within three weeks. Except for very addictive ones.

I have started onions, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes - all inside (almost forgot my Oxford comma!). Yes, we do spread of bit of ash in the garden. We have very acidic soil - or used to; haven't tested it in quite a while. Oops.

We still haven't used the lye. Hopefully it's still "fresh"; it has been kept well-sealed.

Do tell me that Poopy is not eating his dead goat on the bean bag?

How about this? Bee rustlers in California: https://www.rt.com/usa/332675-california-bee-theft-almonds/

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Inge:

I have wondered if the onion changed the pH of the venom at the sting site. I have no idea. It has been quite awhile since I was stung by a bee; it always seems to be wasps - we have so many different kinds. There are some great pollinators among them, too. The plantain has wound-healing properties. I have also had good luck with chickweed (stellaria media) for that purpose. I may be remembering wrongly that the onion works on bee stings as well as wasp stings. Worth a try, though. Most of us keep onions about.

Deer eat most of our wild blackberries, bush and all. So far they haven't touched a now-wild cousin - the wineberry.

I am completely floored at your mention of switching to plastic banknotes. I hadn't heard of it. The thought never occurred to me that they would come up with that sort of a plan to find out how much cash people have, or to make their cash obsolete should they not wish to trade it in. I wonder if one could do so gradually or if there is a time limit? Could one gradually trade out the paper for the plastic by gathering in new plastic as change; handing a shopkeeper a $20 bill for a $1.99 transaction, getting the rest back as new plastic? Pretty convoluted and of no use for large sums. I also wonder if one will have to go to one's own bank, where one is known, to trade for the new currency instead of being able to just run into any bank?

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Lew:

I had never thought that the large estates might have personal librarians. It makes a lot of sense, though, with their vast book collections.

We've had wild domestic (I think that's an oxymoron) cherries popping up. We've always had the true wild ones - the chokecherry (prunus Virginiana). They are not tasty, except to birds.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Fay:

You have a lot of fruit! I'll trade you our deer for your noxious blackberry weeds! Do you think that the Queen Garnet plum really has the extra health properties that the farmer who controls them claims? Or is that mostly crafty merchandising?. Next month we'll be at the point when we watch the fruit blossoms to see if frost will kill them off. Happens about every other year on the plum and apricot trees. Occasionally the peaches, never the apples or cherries. Our one fig tree is really iffy and it, too, loses all of its leaves after a frost.

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Inge - I think Chris is right about the apples. Wood one year, fruit the next. My apples were pretty much a wash out, last year. I think a number of things were going on. There's the ongoing "prune", as they were neglected for so many years. And, also, last year, it seemed like when they were blooming, we had rain and not many bees were out. So, not much got fertilized.

The BBC puts out so many great series. I also got hooked on "Call the Midwife." "Foyle's War", "Indian Summer's, etc. etc.. Our library has the whole "Upstairs, Downstairs", in one boxed set. But, as our check out period is only 3 weeks, I'll think I'll pass. I'd be glued to the screen 24/7. And, so many other things are pressing, at this time of the year. I'll just tackle it one season at a time. :-). Usually, in the evening when the days work is done, I'll just watch an episode or two of ... whatever. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Yeah, it's pretty hard for an outsider to "break in" to the existing social structure. You have to belong to one of the "old families" or marry in. I remember reading about an obituary, I think it was in New England. A well respected gentleman had died at the age of 86. His family had moved to the area when he was about 5. What the obituary said was "We loved him like one of our very own." ! . Wealth has clout. But you better not loose your money!

Don't know how I honed my skills at people reading. I think you're right, all that contact with "the public." But I've always been really curious about people, there stories, in a not, I hope, intrusive way. Went to a big party one time, and someone said, of me ... "You don't say much. You just stand back and observe. Take it all in."

I guess what gob smacks me about the denizens of Downton Abbey is that they are so ... uncurious about their surroundings... their history.

It was a Parson Weems (what a name), who started floating all the froth about Washington. Building the myth. He's so covered in myth, by now, that's it's really hard to see the real man. I don't know why, but Jefferson and Lincoln just seem more ... approachable. More human.

Well, I hacked away at some of the ornamentals, yesterday. Some would call it pruning. :-). Well, at least they look a bit more neat and tidy.

There was an article in the newspaper about some government report about power and the Pacific Northwest. That we're pretty well set for the next 20 years. No need to build any more dams, and such. With a bit of conservation. But what surprised me about the article (and, who knows how accurate it is), is that that's even with some of our "heavy power users." It stated that the Google, Amazon and Facebook server farms use as much electricity as Germany and Japan, combined!

I also saw an headline that said that Australia had laid off (made redundant?) half their climate scientists. 200 or so. Probably the 200 who were the most vocal about climate change.

Well, it's off to the Little Smoke. Just a nice, normal trip, without too many stops. Lew

Fay said...

Hi Pam in Virginia,
Plants rich in anthocyanins are Vaccinium species, such as blueberry, cranberry, and bilberry; Rubus berries, including black raspberry, red raspberry, and blackberry; blackcurrant, cherry, eggplant peel, Concord grape, muscadine grape, red cabbage, and violet petals. Wild blueberries have a measure of 558 anthocyanins and the Queen Garnet Plum has a measure of 277. They were bred by Applethorpe research station here on the Granite Belt about 10 years ago and their anthocyanin content was recognised. Using the same techniques the research station has not been able to duplicate the result, so the Queen Garnet Plum is considered to be a freak of nature. It is a late season blood plum.
Fay

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

Have just remembered that I used to make a blackberry and elderberry jam, it was made with equal quantities of each.

@Pam
Changing our paper banknotes has happened at intervals. Our £50 notes were changed fairly recently, but still paper. There is always some time allowed and even when they cease to be accepted, the bank of England will change them.

@Lew
Re: apple trees. I know that they produce most fruit in alternate years, what I don't understand is why regardless of variety, they all select the same year and it is not weather dependent.

Inge

Fay said...

Hi LewisLucanBooks,
Yes that decision by the CSIRO to dispense with 200 climate scientists should be explained in the context of the Paris talks when it was said that the science of global warming was proved. Why continue to reinvent the wheel? The CSIRO is now going to concentrate on climate change mitigation.
Fay

SLClaire said...

Hi Chris,

Haven't had much time to read comments or make my own, but I've been enjoying your posts as always.

Did I catch a mention of elderberries? I have quite a bit of experience with them. We have two clumps of elderberries that yield enough fruit to make 2 gallons (that would be 8 liters more or less) of elderberry wine every year. I can say from experience that it's drinkable after a year, better after 2 years, and better yet after 3 years - really good, in fact. So far we haven't had any bottles last long enough to know what 4 year old elderberry wine tastes like.

I've tried eating the raw fruit. Not very good tasting but it didn't make me sick. We've dumped the berries into muffins or as a substitute for bananas in a banana bread recipe. The cooked berries add a nice flavor to these.

With winemaking, we find that for two of us and occasional guests, if we make 2 to 4 gallons of wine each year we stay in a more or less steady state, drinking up the oldest about as fast as we make new. We don't drink it every day and don't drink more than a small glass each when we do drink it.

It was quite cold, under freezing, day and night most of last week but much nicer this week. Might get to 70F / 21C in a couple of days. Not spring quite yet, it'll be another month before early spring hits in earnest, but it's moving in that direction.

Hope you get some rain soon and glad to hear that the editor is recovering from being stung!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Fay, Margaret, Pam, Lewis, Inge, and Claire.

Thanks for all of the lovely comments. Late home tonight and then up very early tomorrow at some awful, horrid time, leaves absolutely no time at all to respond this evening. I promise to respond tomorrow evening.

I'd bet that everyone commenting here are early morning people - what is with that? :-)! Early mornings... Yuk! The editor has put me on a strict no sooking about early mornings diet. It's just not fair really!!! Hehe! ;-)! How do people do this?

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I am not an early morning person, no, no, no.

Inge

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Fay:

Thank you so much for the anthocyanins info. I love freaks of nature; they make life so much more interesting! The Queen Garnet plum sounds so delicious. I hope this is a good year for our plum tree.

@ Lew:

I think that if you delve into old George Washington you'll find some interesting things. His home - Mount Vernon - is not that far from us and it's a neat place. His estate used to produce whiskey, quite a lot I think (they were always up to their ears in visitors).

@ Inge:

You have eased my mind concerning the banknotes.

@ Chris:

I was forgetting that biennials flower and fruit and then die, so I guess a tree can't be a biennial.

@ Claire:

Hi!

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - We'd all like to thank you for your personal contribution to making January, the warmest on record :-). We have some moron of a U.S. Senator that starts throwing snowballs around the Senate chamber, any time the topic of climate change comes up. Not from my State.

I'm not a morning person, either. Probably good I live on my own :-). By the time I make it to the keyboard, I've already taken care of the chickens, had a good strong cup of tea ... been civil to the cat and the chickens. Sometimes it helps if I read a bit. You know, string words and sentences, together? :-).

My father was one of those people who thought if everyone wasn't up and doing at 5:30 am, Western Civilization was going to fall. No wonder I fled home on my 18th birthday :-). Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Fay,

Those blackberries sound quite scary! The ones down here have thorns but they're very small thorns and if you're reasonably careful at picking the fruit, the thorns aren't a problem at all. I went out blackberry picking this afternoon - it is the festival of blackberry fruit (I made that up) at the moment and one must make hay whilst the sun shines. :-)!

That granite soil sounds full of minerals and bulldozing the old orchards and rocks into piles sounds to me like the sort of place that snakes would enjoy too - as well as the rabbits etc. I'm a bit wary of snakes around here as I've found them under rocks and logs and they're quite deadly. The rabbits and hares don't stand much of a chance around here because they get eaten by the eagles, owls, foxes, dogs - you name it as it is a precarious life for our fluffy friends. They are present in the valley below especially around the water courses.

No worries about the cuttings and sorry to hear about your heat wave, I've been reading about how hard Queensland is doing with below average rainfall and now locusts. By the end of February on average I'd normally receive 4 inches in an average year but it is about half that at the moment, but it can be sometimes not much at all.

Yeah, I don't quite understand why the fig trees are so thirsty, but I'm watching them and learning. I hear you about the plums as I have a plumcott tree and every year it forms blossoms at such an early time that nothing else is around to pollinate it... The figs have fruit on them at the moment although I have moved them around a lot to find the exact right spot for them, so they are still quite small.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

Of all of the things that I've read over the past day or so, your account of the feeding of the bees is actually one of the scariest things that I've come across. Please don't take that the wrong way, I'm just trying to absorb your information about the sugar water and bees into my world view, and that concept really worries me a lot when combined with your other information about wild bee colonies not surviving over the winter. The implications are staggering. And to be brutally honest, I have to ask you whether you believe that the situation is akin to having a heat lamp or light in a chicken house over winter?

I'll tell you a little story about my honey bee failures. When I first started with bees I thought that the blossoms on the fruit trees would provide plenty of pollen and nectar for the bees and then reality hit me over the head with an unpleasant reality chat from the local bee guy. He came up to have a look around here a few years ago and said to me in the most abrupt and unforgiving manner and basically told me off, and for the benefit of the readers I'll provide the gist of the instruction rather than the actual instruction: "Chris, you are starving your bees". So, I asked him how much pollen and nectar a couple of hives needed for food and just to be a nuisance, he said (again much edited to ensure that it is family friendly): "more than you have now" and he added a few expletives too just for good measure. I realised later that the fruit trees only produced blossom for about 4 weeks all up.

So, a few years ago I started planting the hardiest flowering plants that I could find and I just keep adding to them, every single year. And by now I reckon I have enough flowers to support two hives and some feral hives out in the forest, but over the next few years I'm going to increase the amount of flowering plants exponentially. From my perspective there is no other option. The economics of beekeeping make no sense otherwise as you have to invest in both the flowers and the colony. In your case, you purchase a colony, you feed the colony and they learn to convert sugar water into honey. The honey isn't sourced from a diverse range of pollen and/or nectar and so it clearly has to contain less diverse minerals and compounds and thus the health of the bees is undermined.

"It's still my belief that there would be a better chance of the hives overwintering if all or most of the honey is left for the bees." Exactly. That is exactly what I do here. My plan is to commence extraction of honey from the oldest colony next late spring / early summer because to do anything else will starve the colony over winter when they need the honey as a fuel source just to survive. The bees convert the sugars in the honey into fuel during winter just to keep the hive warm during your cold winters - otherwise they will die.

Margaret, I honestly feel really bad about pointing all of that out, but to do otherwise would do you and your husband a complete disservice. Sometimes, it takes an outsider to peer into the murk and say what is going on. So often our world view can become normalised to a lessened and stressed state and it happens so slowly that we aren't even aware that it is going on.

Yours truthfully.

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Absolutely, and I've heard that exact term used to describe the fruiting capabilities of the humble apple tree. Whether a plethora of different apple varieties do that all at once is well beyond me and I'll try and observe that over the next few years. As an interesting side note, apples readily hybridise and so it may be that the availability of compatible flowers at the time of pollination is what drives the whole process, but seriously, I don't have a clue. Isn't it fun being on the leading edge of rediscovering knowledge that was once known but recently lost? :-)!

Oh yeah, Uni would have been quite eye opening! I hear you. Don't we grow up developing the values and beliefs of our parents - until the point that we test them out against the real world? And then form our own views? I did part time Uni for about 8 years and that threw me in amongst many very serious mature age students that worked part time. I was like a little young candle that burned brightly - but was often tired from burning that same candle at both ends. :-)!

That sounds about right to me. Seriously, I converted from the very sweet yoghurt to very sour yoghurt with 3 weeks of concerted effort - and now I wonder what the fuss was all about! Try it sometime!

Yes, let's maintain the decorum here and use the Oxford comma! ;-)! Hehe! As an awful confession, I've never tested the soil here although I do own a brix refractometer and may employ it one day. Honestly, I just keep feeding it with whatever I can purchase or comes to hand - it couldn't be worse than the rubbish that I started off with? So what did they say about your soil?

Apart from soap, I have no idea what to do with lye? What do you use your lye for?

That isn't far from what Poopy wanted to do...

The bee rustlers are hardly a surprising outcome - thanks for the link. Incidentally, I've just enjoyed an Anzac biscuit whilst reading that article and was trying to understand how I'd feel if I had to consume Anzac biscuits for the next few weeks. The almond trees produce blossoms very early in the season for only a few weeks and I was wondering what the poor bees would enjoy during the remainder of their year...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

The obituary is so very true... I reckon it takes about 3 generations and be prepared to be snubbed socially for the first 2. Although having said that, it is sometimes very beneficial for an area to get an injection of new blood as some areas just get moribund and no longer see the dysfunctional habits that prop up the original families.

Being interested in people is an awesome bit of curiosity. I mean what motivates some people? Really it can all be a bit weird sometimes, but it is fun guessing what makes them tick, and also is often useful as a sort of radar to ward off some of the worst of the worst. I spotted some thugs in a very expensive looking AMG Mercedes last night and I took the initiative by simply waiting them to move along with their obviously dodgy business. They looked as if they didn't have to care a fig and they probably don't have to.

Many people lack curiosity about their surroundings and that doesn't seem to be too much of a problem. Sometimes too much curiosity can be a problem! :-)!

One suspects that perhaps the name forced Parsons Nose to end up as a dodgy adult who never let the truth get in the way of a good story? Who names their kid Parsons anyway? It sounds like a form of child abuse to me...

I honestly have no idea about pruning and merely cut off the dead and annoying bits and it seems to work fine, so who knows? Honestly, tell me this, do you feel guilty about the apple pruners turning up or what? Hehe!

Whoa! No way. Yeah, hydro is good until the dams have to face a solid drought. That is going on in the island state of Tasmania right now and it is not a pretty look. Fortunately for Tasmania, it looks as though the rains may have begun to fall again - they've had some pretty serious bushfires down there but the dams were into the teens and there was no other option for powering the state. It makes you wonder why they asked for the report in the first place?

Yes, that did happen. The lay offs were in - I believe - the weather bureau and the Antarctic division. Few people doubt climate change down here, but the government is under financial pressure due to the loss of income from export income and big corporations appear to not want to pay corporate taxes and well there were these pesky scientists saying stuff...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Thanks for that about the elderberry jam. I've been eating the berries for a little while now and have not noticed any ill affects, but I do have to pull out my herb encyclopedia tonight for further research.

Was the jam nice?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

Thank you and I enjoy reading your thoughts, observations and story too.

Wow, that sounds like an excellent drop and ageing a country wine really does a lot to the smoothness of the taste.

Yeah, the elderberries have very little flavour to me too. On the other hand the shrubs themselves are prolific producers of flowers and berries. Some friends made elderberry wine using the flowers and it was a very nice drop.

Ha! Your guests are more tolerant than mine. I tend to feed them commercial drops as they can get a bit freaked out, but most are polite. That sounds like an excellent system. The demijohns I use here hold about 1.25 gallons but I'm really trying hard to age each batch for over 12 months now. Like you, even all of that effort only provides one glass a couple of nights per week. Honestly, I'm mildly in awe of what they must have done in the past to produce wines in quantity.

That is quite a nice late winter temperature and would be very warm even for here. It was in fact about that temperature here today, which was fortunate because I visited a farming show and nothing is worse than walking around in the heat and sun...

Thank you for asking and the editor has almost fully recovered from the sting. Here's hoping for some rain from the southerly trough next Tuesday and/or Wednesday.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Well you are in good company - did you know that the sky is dark before a person gets up in the morning if they get up too early? It is just so wrong...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

It is as good a term as any really, and isn't it an abstract concept anyway? So I reckon, we can run with that term. :-)!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

What can I say, it's a gift and one can only do their best! :-)! Hehe!!!

Oh no, that is terrible, but what else can we expect if we treat our atmosphere as we would a sewer? It is not much better down here. Few doubt climate change - because we are at the pointy end of things - but no one suggests doing anything differently either. The whole debate down here is very weird, but I do enjoy being accosted on the street by collectors for activist groups and I make it as unpleasant and uncomfortable for them as I possibly can. Whilst being very polite of course. Has he clopped anyone with a snowball? Your senator is lucky that he doesn't get charged with assault if he did - or cop a punch to the head in retaliation. It is a bit silly that tactic and it stinks to me of a distraction technique. I wonder if they get snow in the state that he (and it could only be a guy) represents?

Of course, I totally agree with you. Time must pass by gently before the world swims into focus in the morning. Mind you last night, Poopy and Toothy decided to have a brawl in the middle of the night and Scritchy dobbed on them (isn't she good). I had to get up in the middle of the night and separate them out whilst Scritchy wanted to give each of them "what for!". Toothy clearly started the whole mess...

Hopefully Nell doesn't try for "death kitty" and trip you up early in the morning? Sometimes cats can take liberties...

Yeah, well it is an opinion, I guess and no doubt that he is correct. Maybe.

I used to do paper rounds in the wee early hours of the morning as a child and maybe that left me with a level of distaste for the early mornings. They are a bit of a hassle and it was dark when I got up this morning too. Go figure.

Anyway, I travelled off to attend the Seymour Alternative Farming Festival (Seymour is an inland town) and it was a lot of fun. Lunch was good as I ate Polish Kransky sausages with fried onions in a bread roll whilst enjoying live blue grass music from two people who made their own instruments out of scrap materials. And they told the story of the history of blue grass music and instruments. It was all good fun. We also looked at small holding machinery which I can't possibly afford but could happily drool over! ;-)!

And I picked up some new chookies. 3 Black Leghorn chickens (which look like bantams to me) and 2 Isa Brown chickens. There were lots of other farm animals to look at and it was all good fun. The chicken sales are run annually by the local poultry club and it is always a good event and they supply quality heritage chickens. I'm a bit tired now though...

The tool shops were good too and they often have merchants there selling all manner of odds and ends tools which I absolutely will have a use for - in the future of course! :-)!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Sorry, I so busy rabbiting on that I forgot to say that, I would have left too for that same reason!

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I prefer plain blackberry jam to the elderberry mix but the family ate anything and everything. What was good was a bouquet of elder flowers cooked with gooseberry jam. It was then removed. Very good indeed.

Life is easier if one is a morning person as society functions that way. I often have to use an alarm to get myself up for the benefit of others and admit that I waste many daylight hours in summer. But oh the joy of my evenings when the phone won't ring because the world has gone to sleep.

White frost again this morning.

Inge

margfh said...

Hi Chris,

I don't disagree at all with what you're saying about providing flowering plants rather than sugar water but rather just relaying what's going on around here. We live in the midst of a desert of farm fields of mostly corn and soybeans. Most hedge rows have been pulled out. The roadsides are all mostly mowed. It's really an uphill battle to change the mindset. There are a few islands of conservation district land where staff and volunteers struggle to keep out invasive plants.

My husband has gradually changed his mindset since becoming a beekeeper. When we first moved here he wanted to get rid of dandelions for example. It's really since becoming a beekeeper that he's slowly becoming aware of how interconnected everything is but it's a gradual process. He's a member of a pretty large bee club here and learned from the "experts". Started out using medications for mites but no longer. He also leaves much more honey for the bees in winter than when he started. However, his mindset is that these enterprises should pay for themselves. I think just about all the beekeepers in the club supplement with sugar water but they do share a lot of different practical ideas that may help the hives become healthier and overwinter.

We are incorporating more flowering plants each year but no way is it enough even for just a couple hives. I have a few friends who have had bees overwinter but no longer than three years and they take little or no honey from those hives.

I do appreciate your thoughts. From what I gather though I think keeping bees is much more challenging here than where you're located. I've been getting more ideas from your list of flowering plants though already have some of them. It was a surprise to me years ago to find out how attractive the brassicas are to honeybees.

Today I'm going to a meeting of the "Friends of Hack-ma-tack Monarch Committee" for the first time. Planting for pollinators and butterflies is the focus of the meeting which has representatives from many local groups. Hack-ma-tack is a recently designated national wildlife refuge which includes long corridors of both public and private land in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

On another note, I'm definitely a morning person and usually up between 4 and 4:30 AM. Fortunately my husband is pretty much the same in that regard.

Margaret

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Pam - Well, poor old Washington had really bad teeth. Probably needed all that whisky to cut the pain. And, you're right. From what I've read, after he retired to Mt. Vernon, everybody and their dog stopped by to see the great man.

Odd you should use the term "Freaks of Nature." I picked up a movie of the same title, at the library. Mindless entertainment. I even made some of my "gourmet" popcorn. Green onions and globs of melted mozzarella cheese! Any-who ... a human, a vampire and a zombie walk into a bar ... :-). No, actually, it's a little town where humans, vampires and zombies live in uneasy co-existence. Then ... the aliens show up. One of those teen flicks where all the "high school" students look like they're in their 20s. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - One of my favorite poets. Millay. "My candle burns, at both ends, / it will not last the night. / But, ah my foes, and oh, my friends, / it gives a lovely light." So much for today's spot of culture. Glad to get that out of the way :-).

Well, you can use lye for paint stripper. Pretty dicey to use ... raises the grain on wood. Spread about with a rag on a stick, it was a good disinfectant. Around animal pens and chicken houses.

Parson is an old term for a member of the clergy. Usually protestant. A pastor or church rector. But, parents do give their children the weirdest names (with the weirdest spellings) these days. I don't know ... just to over individualize their perfect little snow flakes, I guess. :-). Every year the local newspaper has a special section of all the babies born, the previous year. I usually keep it, in case I catch fire and write something and need a name. It is usually an occasion of great hilarity, and pity, for the poor kids. Around here, it's heavy on names of country western singin' stars and ANY name from the bible is fair game.

I was given a weird name (don't ask), at a time when Jimmys, Johns, and Toms were the norm. I gave myself a nickname about 1973 and about 10 years ago, made the journey to court and had it legally changed. Hearing my birth name is like being struck. A weird name and being the fattest little kid in whatever grade level does not a happy childhood make. :-)

Well, yes, I'd be embarrassed if the pruners show up and the yard isn't tidy. They could care, not at all. But, I'm neurotic, remember? :-). A week from tomorrow, and old mate of mine (and a mate of his) is coming down from up north for lunch. he knew Chef John, from a long time ago. Thought I'd also invite my bud Scott, from the 12 Step Club. Since 3 of the people involved will be in the will I plan to pound out, this spring, it makes sense. So, it's a frenzy of cleaning. Cooking will not be a problem. Most will come out of the freezer.

Saw a funny cartoon, the other day. Title "Solar Grill." A guy is standing over an unlit barbeque, holding a small magnifying glass. The caption is "Burgers will be ready in about six hours!" :-). The Senator who likes to throw snowballs is from Alaska, so plenty of snow, up there. You think he'd have a clue as Alaska is getting pretty hard hit by climate change. Melting permafrost is causing roads to heave and houses to collapse. Rising sea levels are impacting villages that have to move inland.

Maybe when the ocean is lapping at the Capitol steps ... That comment reminded me of a story about the Dust Bowl. A vote was set to allocate money, and programs for relief. There was a sizable contingent against the allocation. The people in favor of the allocation heard a dust storm was even going to reach Washington, D.C.. So, they timed the vote to just after the dust storm was due to hit. The Senate chambers windows darkened, the wind howled ... and the allocation was passed.

Oh, yes. I had the early morning paper route, too. Got up even earlier, than Dad. He was so happy :-). Really couldn't tell. Our shared breakfast conversation was mostly grunts :-). Turn over was high, amongst the delivery boys. Especially in winter. Being a greedy little blighter, when another route opened up next to mine, I picked it up. So, I had two routes.

Haven't said much about the temperature here, but I noticed this morning that it was 60F (16.11C), inside this morning. Pretty standard for this time of year. But, I don't feel cold. Acclimated, I guess. My ratty poncho and wearing a hat, inside, help. And, taking care of the chickens, first thing. When I come in, it feels warm. Lew

Fay said...

Hi everyone,
Just 2 comments. When I visit the USA, which I have done several times, I'm always interested in the way language develops. During recent comments I have noted the use of the word acclimate or acclimated. Here in Australia we would say acclimatize or acclimatized.
Margie, did you know that the Monarch butterfly spread to Australia about 150 years ago? The cottonbush plant is also here and as child I loved popping the green seed pods and collecting the striped caterpillars. The district where I now live is colder and the Monarch doesn't seem to survive here, but occasional butterflies come into my garden during the summer months. When I visited California in November 1979 I asked to be taken to Monterey to see the migrating Monarchs on the pine trees. I don't know of any such migratory pattern with the Monarchs in Australia.
Fay

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

Whoa! You met yourt match in the bee fellow that came to visit you! Good for him telling you what's what and good for you for listening to him.

I looked at all the nice soaps in a couple of shops that I was in the other day and couldn't afford them, so I am plenty interested to hear about your soap making. The lye that we made is - I think -potassium hydroxide. I get it confused with another hydroxide. It is just sitting around waiting in a glass jar.

From now on I shall have the precious picture of you in my mind as a "little young candle".

Some Things have eaten all the the compost that we have added to the pile inside the 8 foot fence. Except for the avocado pits; there are about 3 dozen of those. How do you keep Things out of your compost? Haven't you mentioned something about putting it in a worm farm?

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Lew:

I have been reading about Martha Washington, too. She was a pretty interesting lady. Did you know that every winter for 8 years she spent with George at his winter military encampment? Everyone (I'll bet there were some aberrations) put down their arms during the winters as the eastern U.S. climate is so harsh (just ask me!).

Thank you for that lovely bit from Edna St. Vincent Millay!

I loved your personal and historical librarian anecdote over at ADR.

Sounds like a dandy film; it has all the right components. I sometimes put garlic powder on my popcorn. I've never tried green onions.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Inge:

I am a morning person; just before the sun comes up an alarm goes off in my head. The advantage is that I never have to set an alarm. The disadvantage is that my husband is a night owl.

Do gooseberries taste like blueberries? We have wild huckleberries, which are pretty much blueberries.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Fay:

I had to look up the cottonbush plant. I think it's just in Australia? The years that I lived in west Texas I saw many fields of cotton plants (the ones fiber is made from). It's really neat stuff.

I haven't seen monarch's in a long time. Maybe they don't like coming into the forest? Or maybe we just don't have their host plants. You would think that I would see them in other parts of the county, though.

Pam

SLClaire said...

Just to chime in on the issue of being a morning person or not, I don't consider myself to be such. Mike and I get up at 7 am most days. Most of the winter, that's before or about when the sun rises. Daylight Savings Time screws things up when it starts (March) and ends (early November). Wish they'd just do away with it. Do you have that in Australia? March is late winter to spring in most of the US and we set our clocks forward 1 hour. So then the sun, which was coming up before we get up here in Missouri, comes up afterward again. It's disconcerting. In November we set the clocks back an hour, so then the sun comes up "too early" relative to before. Anyway, I generally wake up more or less with the sun and really should try to get up around 6 am from April through October, our growing season, so I can get more done. A goal for this year!

Caryn said...

Hi Chris;

Well, it seems I will have to wait until next week for a more in depth discussion on soap-making. I'm very curious, as the two photos you've shown here don't look anything at all like the process I've been using, ( mine was gleaned from a long thread on Green Wizards and about 10-12 various Youtube videos and trial and error - kind of self/internet taught). I've only been at it for about 1 year.
Here in Hong Kong, it's city living; I must buy all of my materials. Sodium Hydroxide in dried pellets from a chemical supplier, olive, coconut, almond and various experimental oils readily available from the grocery stores. I refuse to shop online, having stuff shipped from 1/2 way around the globe - even if it's cheaper or exotic and cool. I tried for a time to get butcher's beef fat in vain, from our wet-markets. In the States, it's a throw-away item, so the local butchers would sell it to me for about .50 cents for 3 pounds, or just give it to me, but here, animal fats are an integral part of Chinese cooking. Almost as expensive as meat. They looked at me like I had 3 heads when I asked in my broken Canto if I could have it for free or cheap!

My latest soap batch, last week was either not stirred enough, (did not saponify properly) or simply not enough lye. It's very greasy and not solid. I'm going to try to melt it down again today and give in to buying an electric hand mixer. Maybe add a touch more lye.

Incidentally, I did last summer make lye, (Potassium Hydroxide) from wood ash at our home in Wyoming. Super easy and effective even with our soft pine wood. Mixed with rendered beef fat and a bit of castor oil for lather, it made the most gorgeous soap ever!!

I'll check in next week to see your process and hopefully a great discussion as well.

heather said...

Hi all-
Re. bees in hair- a couple of years ago, my poor daughter, at the time about 9 years old, got "buzzed" by a group of bees which had set up housekeeping in the gutters on the chicken coop. She had multiple bees tangled in her fine, silky, long hair, and some crawling down her shirt. She started screaming hysterically and fell to the ground and hit her head in the process. I pulled her shirt off her and combed the bees out of her hair with my fingers, and miraculously neither of us got stung once. The gutters got removed from the coop soon after, and my girl wouldn't go near the area for months. She is still very afraid of bees, although I tried to spin the incident to her by saying that clearly the bees didn't WANT to sting us, but merely to warn us away from their home- she wasn't buying it, though. Can't say that I blamed her.

Re. Suspicious looks over innocent bruises- For some time I regularly took an injected medication that caused nasty reactions around the injection sites, including bruising and swelling. I was supposed to rotate the injections sites, for obvious reasons, and most of the sites were normally covered by clothing, but my upper arms were on the list. I wasn't all that self-conscious about the bruising, but I did feel badly enough for the nasty looks my husband got at times that I gave up wearing sleeveless tops away from home- a significant bummer in our hot summers. I was glad when I was able to stop that medication, for sure, and so was he.

Re. Bees in almond orchards- Chris, you are right that the almonds are only in flower for a few weeks. The bees become migrant workers. They are trucked in their hives thousands of miles around the country, following the blossoming periods of the various crops as pollinators for hire. You really would be astonished at the process, a multimillion dollar industry- sugar water is the least of these bees' troubles.

Looking forward to the discussion of soap making next week. I don't get to "tune in" every week, but rather "binge read" every few to catch up (can't keep up with all the comments either these days, congrats on the growth!), but I'll be sure to check in next week to read about the miracles of lye and olive oil. Good stuff, thanks for the effort.

--Heather in CA

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Home made jams from sun ripened fruit are the best jams around. I sometimes add rhubarb to jams to fill it out a bit, but more importantly the rhubarb provides good quantities of pectin which helps with the setting. I honestly can't taste the rhubarb in the jam either... Oh! The elder flower in jam is a great idea - they're very tasty, in fact much more tastier than the berries. You did well by your family. :-)!

Absolutely! I hear you, mornings are a problem for others. When I was building this house we rented a house (I feel for renters) in a commuter town not too far from here and everyone there got up early - everyday of the week, but then like you I enjoyed the quiet of the evenings and the editor and I used to take the dogs for a walk around and you'd never see anyone else. It was almost as if a pestilence had taken hold and we were the last survivors walking amongst all of the ruins. It was that quiet. Phone calls at night make me wonder who has died.

Enjoy your frost, the world does look slightly magical and surreal when a heavy frost hits. Tuesday here is meant to be 35'C (97'F)...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

Thank you for understanding and replying with good grace, as I only intended to provide an outsiders viewpoint on the situation. I totally understand your point of view and can only quip that what can't be sustained, probably won't be sustained. The corn relies on wind pollination so there is nothing for the bees there, and I honestly have no experience with soybeans. It is a shame there isn't a massive crop of canola or some other brassica?

Well, it is very hard because we're told from such a young age that things are a certain way and when you encounter the world and it doesn't live up to those expectations, well it is hard. Dandelion does provide some solid pollen for the bees, so I applaud your husbands actions. I hear you about the enterprise paying for itself, but so much of my time is absorbed into uncertain investments in nature into the future and I have no idea what will pay and what won't. We're in the early stage of a project to establish a small fern gully on the property as that will help infiltrate water into the groundwater table and I have no idea what the long term repercussions of that project will be. My gut feeling after observation is that there is a little less than a one to one relationship with a lot of the natural systems.

Incidentally, the parrots have discovered my tomatoes this year...

I'm wary of bee "experts" because they have an unfortunate track record, but are still all too happy to beat me over the head with their knowledge and I somehow feel a bit uncomfortable around them. Dunno.

That is what I'm finding too, the bees need far more pollen and nectar plants, so every year the garden beds are extended. You may be interested to know that the bees have started foraging on the salvia plants today (I'll add a photo on Monday). My gut feeling is that we may have to rethink the entire process of beekeeping from the ground up. Your friends are on the right path though.

Well done and I totally respect that. There have been recent calls down here for people to look into the past to see how the Aboriginals managed the country so well and I believe that the past has much to offer in that regard. What we need for the bees are meadows of wildflowers. I spotted my first self replicated cone-flower (Echinacia species) today too here.

Say no more as that is the stuff of horror stories to me! :-)! Hehe!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

I believe the correct term in Latin is: librarius ;-)!

By the way that is a very silly premise for a horror film. Did you enjoy it? It sounds like a lot of fun.

Thanks for the poem, and Millay, I reckon he's alright! Yes, if I had the chance to stay up later into the evening, I probably would, but alas, I must fit in with others time frames. A bit of shame really.

Oh yeah, it is horribly basic so would kill most bacteria. You could possibly use it on wounds too - at a pinch. Ouch! I always remember the scene in the original Alien film (1977) where the ships surgeon cut off one of the limbs of the proto-Alien and the blood oozed through many layers of steel decks, it left an impression on me.

Oh yeah, I knew about the parson term, but I believe I may have been referring to the Parson's nose part of a chicken. I do recall as a child that it used to be supplied with a roast chicken, but I'm not so sure nowadays as I'm a mostly vegetarian and chicken just looks like any other meat to me now when it is served up.

You know, I once annoyed a friend who gave their kid an unusual name by saying: "Don't you think it would be better if he had a normal name, but lived an interesting life?". Well, it seemed like a fair observation to me, but wow, did they take that one hard. The stupidest name I've ever heard for a child was: "Bus stop number 16" and you can only speculate at the reason for that name. As an interesting side note, I believe the grandmother injected a modicum of sense into the situation and had the name changed by deed poll (i.e. legal).

No, one can keep their secrets - it's all good with me. But yeah, I hear you, kids were unrelentingly cruel back in the day and there wasn't a whole lot of noise about anti-bullying policies in school - and fights outside the school ground were a rough indoctrination to the world of maleness. Many years ago, there was a stirring song: Lazyboy - Underwear Goes Inside The Pants which discussed that very issue, amongst many, many others. It's good social commentary. I hear you man.

Haha! Well it is nice to tidy up for visitors too. :-)! It is wise to sort out one's affairs and I do hope that you have an enjoyable time too in among all of the business of life.

Oh yeah, a year or two back I had a cake cooked from a solar oven and it was good, but I must admit that I'm spoiled by the other options at my disposal here - alright the centre was a bit uncooked, but I was too polite to mention that. I put away more firewood today too and hopefully that job is finished early this year. I learn so much every single year and I worry that people underestimate the difficulties of living in a remote spot and having to rely on their wits and systems.

Alaska is about as fragile as it gets. It is akin to living in the arid lands of the centre here. You just don't muck around in those areas...

That is one canny strategy to wait until the reality can't be avoided and then vote on it. Nice work.

That is very funny, dad's can be difficult - from what I hear and grunting is probably a valid form of communication for some dads. Very nice too and I did two rounds in the morning too sometimes and the chemist round in the afternoon. The funny thing was I was rolling in cash and at some point my mother borrowed funds from me and she always asked: where did you get all of this cash? As if she had no concept that I was up in the dark each morning hauling newspapers. Unfortunately, the arcade games consumed a chunk of that income too... Ah, well, we all have or had our kryptonite! ;-)!

Yeah, that is quite a reasonable temperature for inside the house - and I believe it was about that inside here this morning here too. I like the cooler temperatures as you can sleep better in the cool than the heat. Oh! The cold fingers from cleaning the chickens water would be something else up in your part of the world. Brrr!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Fay,

G'day! You would never hear that in the US! My grandmother used to greet me by saying:"Oooo g'day loorve" - it was very sweet. Language is a fascinating and ever changing beast. I've noticed that a lot of people younger than I say "bunch of" this or that. Hope the heat has let up.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Oh yeah, he let loose on his opinions and I appreciated that because I was in total la la land - and that is not really a good place to be when you are responsible for some other life forms. Sometimes a reality talk can be a good thing as that is how hard won wisdom gets handed down. You don't see them much anymore which is a bit of a shame really. I absolutely 100% took on board what he said and it has helped a lot. Plus the editor loves all of the colour in the flowers. The page about the flowers that the bees like is really a guide for the perplexed on that subject. ;-)!

No! You've introduced chemical language speak stuff, so fortunately the editor has a background in science so I shall get her to closely edit that bit. Til then I must studiously avoid that question. Hehe! Seriously soap making is so quick and easy and the end product is superb - you'll be totally spoiled by the experience you know? ;-)!

I do but try to amuse you! Hehe! Alas that poor candle fails to ignite in the mornings for some strange reason...

Oh my! Rats come to mind, but observation will enlighten you. The rotten little rats would get into the worm farm if they could... It is however a totally sealed unit with thick polyethylene lining. It is good stuff and worms, snails and millipedes all exit from the compost bin on the top of it, but nothing else can get into it. Compost is food for many animals. I hate to think what Poopy would do if he had access to the decaying materials inside the worm farm. He'd enjoy it all too...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

Fair enough, it is a contentious issue to be sure and everyone is different. Personally, I'd enjoy getting up at about 8am each day, but alas circumstances dictate that things must be otherwise. Yeah, some states in Australia have daylight savings time and Victoria is one of those. When it comes into play, I sort of feel a weird jet lag feeling for about a week and then I don't really notice it. Winters can be hard here as you get up in the dark and mostly if I visit a client, I'm back home again in the dark and it is almost constant 99% humidity.

Spring forward and Fall back is how they tell it down here. Our northern most state which Fay lives in avoided daylight savings time and there is often a bit of giggling about that fact down here (sorry Fay, I don't join in with that as I resent losing the hour of sleep in Spring).

Over high summer, I have to adapt to the extreme UV by getting up at a crazy early time and then working until lunchtime. The afternoons are killers... It is hard to get to bed early though...

Thanks for your story.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Caryn,

Welcome to the discussion.

Yeah, I had the impression that everyone is walking around saying how hard it is to make soap and I don't get that at all. I do salute your efforts at self learning the art of soap making. I promise to use the proper chemical names on Monday's post too - otherwise everyone will kill me!!! Hehe!

Haha! I bet they did, that is very amusing too. I picked up the olive oil from a local olive grove and it was the dirtiest seconds quality stuff and they were grateful to have someone who wanted to buy it. Of course, I grow olives here too and the long term plan is to press my own oil. Yum!

As a suggestion, chuck the mix next to the heater or leave it in a sunny spot on a balcony? And remember to stir it occasionally.

Oh yeah, home made soap is so far beyond the purchased soap that it is scary. Someone once explained to me that soap we use nowadays is actually detergent rather than the more traditional soap and I often wonder whether that has anything to do with the level of skin allergies that people express nowadays. Certainly olive oil soap is anything but drying on the skin.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Cheers

Chris

Fay said...

Yes Chris, I attended a wedding in Tennessee in May 2005 and was rather amused by the use of the word "loorve". I was asked by a gentleman if I had a 'beau' back home. I'm a published author of a book called Wildflowers, wilderness and wine and I write a column twice a month for a Queensland regional newspaper called The Bush Telegraph under the same heading. For me these are the main attributes of this Granite Belt district which has 4 national parks and more than 60 wineries.
There is a saying that any Australian district is only ever 2 weeks away from a drought. Here we had three years without spring storms, but after several huge storms in December 2014, our country was thoroughly soaked and all the catchments were filled. To the surprise of BOM the Bureau Of Meteorology, 2015 was an 'average' year despite the snow in July. Spring storms arrived in October, but rainfall has been light. What we have experienced this summer is a green drought. Everything was looking good until a heatwave began 2 weeks ago and sizzled all growth. There has been no heavy rain to soak the soil but there is still plenty of stored water. I have a river frontage as well as 2 dams on a secondary gully. I normally use a solar powered pump on one of these dams to water my garden, because it is close to the house, but the low pressure couldn't keep up with the demand, plus the water level in the dam was dropping. Yesterday I installed a petrol powered pump on the river bank to achieve high pressure. There have been some scattered storms about over the past 2 days which have cooled the air, but I only measured 2mm. Fay

Fay said...

Hi Pam in Virginia,
I must have had an 'old timer's' moment when I said cotton bush. You would know the plant I was referring to as milkweed. As a child I would blow the dried seeds from their pods to float like cotton wisps on the wind. I rode a horse 6 miles to a tiny one teacher school and across a creek beside which the milkweed flourished. This period of riding to and fro along a country track each day made me a keen observer of nature. I now write a column for a regional country newspaper under the title of Wildflowers, wilderness and wine.
Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed; their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.), and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs.
Sorry about that,
Fay

Fay said...

Don't worry about that Chris, we banana benders are quite used to being the butt of southern jokes. In fact the issue of daylight saving, when given a 1 year trial in Queensland, created many city versus country jokes, like it supposedly faded the curtains in western regions. The problem was that our state is wide and children in Mt.Isa were obliged to go to school in the dark and come home in the hottest time of the day. They had no twilight to enjoy and then could not get to sleep until late. Country farmers who began their day at sunrise and finished at sunset complained that the TV news which still came on at 7.00pm would be finished when they came into the house at 8.00pm.
I've always been a morning person so enjoy hearing the kookaburras starting the bird song chorus about 4.00am in our summer months, but I hate losing 4 hours of daylight from my day in the winter. I understand why folk in Canada can get cabin fever during their long winters.
Fay

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Heather,

Thanks for sharing the story. Both you and your daughter were very lucky not to have been stung. And I haven't quite learned to be cool when they land on me either. It is very lucky for your daughter that she didn't sustain serious head injuries from the fall - it can happen you know. It is very hard sometimes when you see photos of people with bees all over them and whilst it is very nice for them, but yeah, not good. I don't know how they do it. As an interesting side note, when bees are swarming - which means looking for a new home - they're so full of honey that they don't actually sting you, so perhaps your bees were a swarming colony? Dunno really. Nice work on your part too with that later story.

Oh yeah, people always get the wrong impression. I'll tell you a funny story about the wood heater. When I first started using the wood heater, I wore riggers gloves (which are short thick leather gloves). My hands and fingers were OK but every now and then, my wrist would brush against the very hot steel and I'd end up with all sorts of burns and sores on my wrist. Anyway, after a while the editor looked at my wrists and said: You look like a self harming person, which is sort of hard to explain! And I was a bit horrified and ended up using a pair of long welding gloves which sorted the whole messy problem out. Now I keep them next to the wood fire box ready for the inevitable firewood emergencies that happen and are a regular feature of wood fires.

It is really not good because the bees take a while to get established in their new location and they have to send out foragers and scouts to find food and water etc. I actually wonder how the bees can survive such an ordeal plus it would spread any diseases and parasites far faster than those two nasties could ever achieve. Dunno, it freaks me out.

No worries, enjoy when you can, it's all good. :-)! I'm not really looking for growth as much as quality of comments and stories. Thank you.

Cheers

Chris

margfh said...

@Fay

I didn't know about the Monarchs in Australia so I looked it up and learned more about it.

@Lew

Enjoyed your description of the library system. Our library is pretty small so our librarian is very accessible and often checks out books. She is very involved in the community as well. The one before her who recently retired is even better. Of course there's more focus on technology but still many reading programs for kids and adults. Not a great selection of books but there's a good inter-library loan system and it usually doesn't take long for a book to come in.

margfh said...

Hi Chris,

You are so right - the system is unlikely to be sustained. There is more awareness of the plight of all pollinators but change happens so slowly I fear it's too little, too late but even so one should continue to do what one can do.

The meeting went well yesterday - lots of local groups and some government agencies involved in spreading awareness and plantings for pollinators and butterflies.

Margaret

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Fay:

Got you about the milkweed. Thanks! My, I envy your river frontage. The property next to us has a pond, whose source is a spring that starts just over our boundary on their side. I have a feeling that I might be able to tap into it a bit further up the "vale". In fact, once I called the only dowser that I know (the father of an ex-schoolmate of our son) and asked him to come out and search for water on the property, but he was writing a book at the time (and other stuff) and couldn't come out. So I made my own dowsing rods and, let me tell you, I must be one of those not endowed with that skill. I couldn't even find a pool of water in a tree stump.

Pam

orchidwallis said...

@Pam
Gooseberries are unlike any other fruit, as far as I know. They can be green, red or a gorgeous large yellow eating variety. I have given up growing them as I am a martyr to the gooseberry saw fly whose caterpillars strip the leaves off the bushes. I don't believe that there is a wild variety.

Bees die if they sting you, so unless you are interfering with their hives or tread on them, they don't usually sting. If one lands on me and I have had one walk across my mouth, I wait for it to leave.

Anyone who naturally wakes before 9.0am is a morning person in my opinion.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ All - Duck! Book recommendation, coming your way. There's an author from my neck of the woods named Robert Pyle. He wrote the Audubon book of western butterflies. A very lyrical writer. If you really want to know what life is like in my patch, check out his "Wintergreen" or, "Sky Time in Gray's River." He also wrote a book called "Chasing Monarchs; Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage." He followed the Monarchs from Canada to Mexico. A real "road trip" of a book. Tagging (!) butterflies, along the way. He also wrote a book about Big Foot :-).

Barbara Kingsolver also wrote a really good novel about Monarchs called "Flight Behavior." Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Well, between you and I, ranting over at the ADR, we're really burning up the web! :-). I expect a degreed librarian to show up, anytime, to mount a defense :-). Probably Greg Belvedere. Probably won't get much sympathy from Mr. Greer. If I remember correctly, his grandmother was one of those un-degreed library people who ran a brach library, for years, out toward the coast. :-).

Mmmm. Edna St. Vincent Millay. Her unusual middle name came from the hospital she was born in. :-).

Yes, Nell is very much Killer Kitty, at times. I finally wised up and started leaving the hall light on, for when I get up in the dark. A florescent bulb, so it doesn't take much power. Useless bit of information: 86,000 people end up in the emergency room, every year in the US, due to falling over their pets. 88% dogs, ll.7% cats. I suppose the other .03% is boa constrictors, or something :-). But, pets only account for 1% of falls. Oh, it's just that she wants to rub up against my ankles. Still, I keep a close eye on her. Mainly, because I don't want to step on her. That's happened a couple of times. Lots of screeching. Dangling fingers, can also be a problem. She'll leap for them, claws out! Funny, I have a little sign screwed to the rail, next to my front steps ... "WARNING!! Crazy Cat!" My friends in Idaho, gave it to me.

Oh, "Freaks of Nature" was a bit of a mindless, entertainment, popcorn movie. Watched "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse", last night. Another bowl of popcorn was on offer :-). Not bad, actually. A bit of a "Lads", movie, if you know what I mean. But, not offensively, so. To me. Just that awkward age between going all hysterical over breaking wind jokes and being interested in girls. And, at least the actors could, with a little imagination, be of high school age.

Sometimes, I can decide on a time and wake up at that time. But, it's not a dependable enough talent that I trust it. So, I set an alarm. I know I've had enough sleep, when I wake up just a minute or two before the alarm goes off. That's the trick. Having the discipline to get to bed a a descent hour. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Fay,

The gentleman was perhaps being polite but curious too? It is hard to read the context of the question, but I have read on numerous occasions that Southerners can be very polite - although I have no personal experience in the matter, outside of course enjoying the occasional Southern sourced meal in Melbourne - so many restaurants...

Well done with the book and column. Thank you for sharing too. Your place is very beautiful and the country around it is also very awe inspiring. There are so many of the same plants too, which is very surprising given the climate here is akin - because of the altitude - to that of the bottom of the east coast of Tasmania. You may be interested to note, that I used to write semi-regularly for Earthgarden magazine which has been a going concern since about 1972, but they appeared to be struggling with circulation numbers - it is a tough industry - and sometimes my views can be a little bit left of centre, so I chose instead to write the blog and see what happens. Your writing is very clear and it shines through that you also write elsewhere.

The quote about drought is very true. I read long ago that there was an old timer saying about: "Keeping 10 sheep, when you can feed 10 sheep" and that too is a far deeper quip than it appears at first glance.

Wow, that description is a bit of a concern as, if I understand your part of the world well, that most of your rainfall falls in the summer and you have dry winters? I'm not really sure though. Green droughts can occur down here too, but the heatwave in October - which was record breaking - followed by a December heatwave was quite an unusual weather event. I'm considering my options at this point in time, because I do have options for the future. You are remarkably lucky to have access to a river, plus dams. The Macedon river is absolutely dry right now, and the creek that flows at the bottom of my property is totally dry.

Yeah, I don't join in on those jokes, because sensible people would understand the whole golden rule of "Do unto others", and to be brutally honest I've found that people who rubbish others consistently may sooner or later end up rubbishing you. I've had that experience and it is unpleasant and so I am wary of those sorts now.

Mind you, having just written that 4am is beyond my understanding, but I respect your choice. I'll cover that a bit in the next blog in a small section (sub plot) entitled: Save our Toothy!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

That is exactly correct. Well done and that earns you the elephant stamp! :-)!

Of course, the situation as it stands is very sub fluffy optimal, so all one can do is do the best they can and where things are failing, take an honest dose of self assessment and try and experiment to see if a better outcome is possible. I mean what else can we all do? I use wax sheets in my bee frames and for all I know they contain all manner of nasty stuff, but without throwing the baby out with the bathwater what else can we all do?

Respect for being involved in that group and I wish you the best of luck with it.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Well it is better that it is you and I rather than others, isn't it? I did enjoy your comments too and agree with you.

Well there you go, I had no idea about that history and thanks for sharing it. You know I don't know about the whole undergraduate degree process as many years ago I used to run a graduate program for a big corporate. It was so lovely with all of these assistant accountants buzzing around and eager to learn. At the same time, I also looked after a few manufacturing businesses too as I always have felt that I like to provide good value for money - that is probably a bad thing though. Anyway, the thing that I recognised in them was that despite their University qualifications, they required real world experience in order to simply understand what they were doing - or required to do. One of them in particular was previously employed in an audit position for several years with one of the big four firms. And that person used to claim that they knew far more about the accounts than the people that worked in the businesses. I let them down very gently, a bit at a time, until after 12 months they finally recognised that they were over-used (is that abused?) as cannon fodder for the profit of the partners in their previous life. I had a deliberate policy of sending them home at a reasonable hour every night for those 12 months too. It hurt me to see how abused they had been and that the whole thing was sold on the basis of status and experience, and by the end of their first year, they knew better, but felt better too.

Thank you for that. Edna St. Vincent Millay appears to me to have been touched with a sort of mild melancholy, her quote: "It's not true that life is one damn thing after another; it's one damn thing over and over" really shines with that feeling, but it also appears that she had a vast sense of the deepness and richness of time. Poets are complex beasts and I often wonder how many of them are borne into the world only to have no mentors or assistance (or even structure) with the depth of their feelings. Dunno. I was a young adult when Nirvana ruled the airwaves and clearly Kurt (the lead singer) was a guy that felt deeply about the world and he eventually shot himself after leaving a legacy of distraught music - maybe one needs to have been there? Dunno.

The fluro is a good idea, I run a little LED light in the bathroom as it can get so dark here at night too... Well, Nell is very naughty by acting as a killer kitty trip hazard. I can see that about dogs as they seem to be more trusting whereas their feline friends are a bit more nervous about their status in the household. Your friends in Idaho, clearly understood Nell's disposition!

Yeah, I hear you about both of them. All good fun stuff. You know, I generally do pizza (of the home made variety) when the occasional film gets shown here. The unfortunate side of that equation is that the dogs sit in front of me demanding chunks of the crust and sometimes, you don't want to share, but they do sad dog face...

Exactly, you've had enough sleep when you wake up five minutes before the alarm. That happens to me too, but like you, I wouldn't want to rely on it. People are often annoyed by lateness, and so well, you do your best. ;-)!

I think I cooked my head today as it was just so hot here and I had to finish the "Save our Toothy" project. Toothy seems very unimpressed with it too, which may not help...

Did it warm up in your part of the world?

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Margaret - Sounds like you have a good library system. As long as they have good inter library loan agreements, that's great.

Well, my last library job was with a regional system that has 27 libraries in 5 counties. From thumping big metro libraries to little one room rural branches. The catalogue is centralized, and if you put a "hold" on a title, it may come in from some far flung branch. The deliveries service runs six days a week. So, books, etc.. are sloshing from one end of the system to the other. As an on-call clerical, for all but three years of a 12 year run (I settled into one branch for three years), I ended up working in 17 of those 27 branches.

When we had the head librarian who only talked to other MLSs (Master of Library Science), she insisted ... even on the smallest branch level, that the building head be another MLS. So, you had a lot of green, newly minted librarians, who would stay a year or two and then move on. Hmm. I just had an odd thought. Maybe she wanted all those other librarians around, so she'd have someone else to talk to? :-). I've always felt that a rural librarian should live in the community ... and stay awhile. That policy loosened up when the new head librarian, came in. I've noticed in some other regional systems, in this State, small rural branches are run by people who have a Bachelor's Degree ... in anything. As long as they have other library experience. That enables more people, from the community, to apply for the openings. Maybe even people from within the branch, can move up. Expands the pool, so to speak.

Oh, well. Enough ranting. I'm retired and it's all water under the bridge. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Yeah, it's all about on the job, experience. When I was taking those on-line library courses, there would be 35 or 40 people taking the classes. And there was a blog, or chat room, where we could all interact with each other and with the instructor. The mix of students was interesting. There were old war horses like me, improving skills, and youngsters taking required courses to work toward their degrees. Some of the youngsters, didn't have a clue. :-)

Some thought they'd just get the degree and slid into a nice cushy library job. Something administrative where they wouldn't have to deal with the public. And there was lots of moaning about how do you get a job that requires experience, when you have no experience. The old conundrum. Our instructors were good about pointing out, that even if you couldn't get a job (as a lowly page or clerk) you could volunteer. There were always a few self entitled wash outs :-).

When I decided to go back to library land, I went to the Centralia Library and volunteered. I was tired of slinging hash at the local cafe, and decided I really wanted to do something else. Volunteers aren't allowed to do much (when times get financially tough, in a library system, there's always a push to use volunteers instead of paid staff ... something the library union (a ather toothless entity) doesn't like. So, I "read" shelves. You go book by book, shelf by shelf, making sure everything is in it's right place. I showed up three times a week and read shelves. For nine months. I actually liked it. That attention to detail kind of work. Then, an opening came for a substitute clerical, for Centralia and Chehalis. Can't say I was a shoe-in, but I got the job. During orientation, I asked Human Resources, if I was able to substitute in other branches. After they told us that we'd maybe make enough for groceries. Maybe. I was told yes. Well, I was off and running. Printed up a few business cards, traveled around to every branch within reach, introduced myself. And, the calls started coming in. I was rapidly up to working 40 hours a week.

LOL. We were paid every two weeks ... so, some weeks I'd work, say 44 hours, and the next week I'd work 36. My hours were coming in from so many branches, that it took Human Resources the longest time to catch up with me ... were they miffed! My check just showed 80 hours for the pay period. I just played dumb. Settled into a branch for three years (a horrendous experience, as the building head was psychotic) but, I wanted to get my retirement, vested. Bit the bullet til that happened, and then went back to substituting.

Well, to wind this up, I think the real frosting on the cake was, when I was volunteering, I heard the cafe owner tell someone, "Oh, Lew is just deluded. He's too old and doesn't have the education to get a job at the library." :-). Showed him. I think the point of all this is, you have to watch for opportunities, make opportunities, where you can, and maybe slog through a lot of mire, along the way, to get what you want. And, what you think you want, might not be what you end up with, but what you end up with might be better.

Poets, writers ... artists of any kind can be such a tortured lot. And, so much of it is unnecessary. Millay pretty much ended up a drunk, dying sitting on her stairs with a glass of wine, by her side. I try not to judge. I don't know what really goes on in other people's lives. But, the thought that most often comes to mind is "Oh, the waste."

LewisLucanBooks said...

Well, I just have to remind myself that Nell's getting under my feet is mostly a bid for affection. And, checking out the scent on my ankles, to make sure I, am me :-). As independent as cats are, they need a bit of affection. Sometimes, I just give her a quick pet to let her know all is well with the world. She's going through one of those periods where when I go to bed, or take a nap, she perches on my shoulder. We have five minutes of scratching and preening, and then she settles in for her own nap.

Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Made a bit of a hash, of this. I'm too wordy.

It was clear yesterday, but when I went to bed at 12, it was very frosty. Winter wonderland. First frost in 2 weeks. When I got up at 8, it was all gone. Even in the sheltered places. Something must have rolled through. Had piled the truck with apple pruneings. Load, stomp, load, stomp. Noticed on the satellite picture, that a storm was rolling in. So, before anything else, I gave the load another stomp and lashed it down. Trip to dump, tomorrow. Hope it clears off, as I think I could get more, on.

Chickens laid just one more egg, this week, over the previous week. 26. I've begun leaving them alone, if they're on the nest, in the morning. I just check back, later. This morning, there were 3 hens lined up to use the favored nest box, of the day. Don't know how they decide this. Maybe it's the wallpaper? :-) Lew